The Sunday before Valentine’s Day this year was a chance for us to visit Baltimore’s Walters Museum (my first time there). Unlike the day before, when we got to spend time with our friend Faith (as we saw both the Visionary Arts Museum and Baltimore Museum of Art), we were mostly on our own. We made the most of the day, eating dumplings at Pinch in the Mount Vernon Marketplace after our stop at the Walters, and then picking up some food for the train ride home from Peter’s Pour House.
We unexpectedly did get to see Faith on Sunday – we had something of hers by accident, and it worked out logistically for her to meet us at our hotel for the exchange. And then she generously offered to drive us to the museum. What a nice surprise!
Our first stop in the Walters was on the second floor, at the Chamber of Wonders, their recreation of the Cabinets of Curiosities that were so popular among the crowned heads of Europe during the Renaissance period and thereafter. The Walters chamber is dominated by the Maerten van Heemskerk Panorama, which combines a narrative on the abduction of the the mythical Greek beauty Helen with depictions of the wonders of the ancient world (the pyramids, etc.).
Near the Chamber of Wonders is the Collector’s Study, a recreation of the study of an art collector. Glass cases line the walls, filled with small statues and glassware, and paintings hang above those cases. My favorite in this room may have been the stained glass windows that depicted hunting and jousting scenes.
From there, we moved up to the third floor. The western half of the floor is devoted to art of the Medieval Period, and within that are a couple of galleries containing Islamic art. Stylistically, as well as by period, the Islamic art meshes very well with the Medeival art nearby.
The galleries of Medieval art may have been my favorite in the entire museum. The stained glass that is contemporaneous with that of Sainte-Chappelle in Paris is fantastic (love all those rich shades of blue glass). The Opening Madonna Triptych is extraordinary – I have never seen anything like it, and while it is rather strange to see the Madonna’s body split in two and opened to reveal the Stations of the Cross inside, it is certainly worth a good long look.
We were keen to move to the eastern half of the third floor and see the Renaissance art galleries, but we felt like it was time to take a break at this point. We were disappointed to discover that there is no food offered in the museum’s cafe (just a bunch of tables and a vending machine of snacks). However, while we were down there, we did some shopping in the museum’s gift shop (the globe/ornament and its hanging stand at the top of this post were two of our purchases).
We changed our plans just a bit at this point, electing to head to the top floor to see the temporary exhibit on how the museum’s collection was, well, collected by father and son William and Henry Walters. Some of the earliest pieces purchased by the two are shown here, including a fascinating painting of the interior of Cordoba, Spain’s Mezquita and a lesser-known painting of Claude Monet showing his wife (I presume) lounging in full spring dress on a lawn.
Now we would finally head back to the third floor and the Renaissance collection. And yes, it was nice to see the museum’s Raphael painting (although I have to say, the Raphael paintings in Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art are far superior to this one).
Not far from the museum is the Mount Vernon Marketplace. Denied a lunch at the museum (a bag of potato chips and a juice box didn’t quite do it), we decided to have a larger nosh there. Sharing an order of dumplings from Pinch really hit the spot.
We could’ve eaten a larger lunch there, but we were thinking of how to time things right for our train home. So after getting a good glimpse of the impressive HMV doggie atop the Maryland Historical Society (see below), we Uber-ed back to our hotel, picked up some sandwiches at the nearby Peter’s Pour House (the memory of those shrimp salad sandwiches makes me wish I had one right now!), and (keeping the same Uber car) made it to the train station with plenty of time to spare. A full day, a great weekend, let’s do it again sometime!